For John Ashbury, writing his new book felt like half local history lesson and half reuniting with old friends.
Ashbury, a Thurmont-based journalist and author, self-published “As Long as We Remember” in late 2018. The book came out on Dec. 21.
This is Ashbury’s third book focusing on local history. “....And all our yesterdays: A Chronicle of Frederick County, Maryland” came out in 1997 and “Frederick County Characters: Innovators, Pioneers and Patriots of Western Maryland” was published by History Press in 2013.
“The people who made Frederick County what it is just fascinate me,” Ashbury said.
For this new book, Ashbury said he wanted to keep a theme of local historical figures, but he wanted to focus especially on people he knew personally or at least people to whom he had a connection.
Ashbury, himself, moved to Frederick County in 1952 at age 12. His father was the rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Frederick and his mom was a local teacher and eventual Frederick County Board of Education member.
While Ashbury did leave the area for a while due to work, he returned for good in 1978. He lived in Walkersville through 2004 and then moved to Thurmont.
Approximately 50 people are profiled in “As Long as We Remember,” and Ashbury said a second edition is already in the works.
The majority of the people who Ashbury chose to highlight have died, though one notable living person in the book is Nick Diaz.
Ashbury described Diaz as a former middle school math teacher and current Frederick Community College board member. He is also a Cuban immigrant who escaped just before former president Fidel Castro took over.
Ashbury’s book referred to Diaz as the kind of teacher for whom every middle schooler should “demand.”
When profiling Calvin Sayler, who died in 2015, Ashbury looked in his own backyard in Thurmont.
“Thurmont would be a totally different place today if it hadn’t been for him,” Ashbury said.
Sayler was the owner and operator of the former Claire Frock factory, which employed many residents in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.
During a recession, Ashbury said Sayler brought all of his employees together and said they had the option to take a 10 percent pay cut or he could layoff 50 employees. The employees chose the pay cut but Sayler made a point to pay all of them back once the economy picked up again.
Sayler also bought uniforms for Thurmont little league players when the program first started, and he was instrumental in bringing a doctor to the area after the only local physician was killed in a traffic accident.
One of the more tragic stories Ashbury profiled was of Brunswick High School student Cindy Gibson, who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion. Ashbury interviewed her for his reporting position at the time shortly after Gibson announced her diagnosis in school. She wanted her classmates to know what was going on so they wouldn’t be afraid of her, he said.
“This was the bravest person I ever met,” Ashbury said of Gibson, who died at age 18 in 1994.
Ashbury said he put together his book over the course of a few months. He said he chose who to profile by thinking about whose deaths he reacted to the most strongly.
“My main interest has been history all along. These people won’t show up in history books; they show up in making Frederick County a great place,” he said.
He couldn’t think of any challenges he encountered in his writing process.
“I used a lot of spellchecker,” Gibson said with a chuckle.
The book is currently being sold at the Curious Iguana in Frederick and at the Shamrock Restaurant in Thurmont. Copies can also be ordered by emailing AsLongAsWeRemember@ outlook.com.